Boost your cell signal indoors
Q. To save money, I canceled my home landline. I didn't realize how weak my cellphone's signal is in some rooms. Can I make it better, or is it back to the landline?
A. You can buy cellphone repeaters that intercept the signal from outside, or in a room with a strong signal, and rebroadcast it to the rest of the house. zBoost and weBoost are two companies to check out. Their boosters start at $200 and go up from there. If you're trying to save money, you can also contact your cellular provider first to see if it will offer a free fix. Your provider might end up giving you a free femtocell or microcell. This specialized antenna plugs into your router and broadcasts a strong cellular signal for your phone. Tip in a tip: Even if your cellular signal is strong and blazing fast, your phone or tablet might be sluggish. Click here to learn what settings to tweak and areas to clean to speed it up again.
Don't fall for this tech trap
Q. I'm renewing my cellular contract soon and there are so many great phones on the market. Unfortunately, all the newest ones are really expensive and I'd rather not spend more than $100. What should I do?
A. There's a trap to avoid when buying tech and that's thinking you need the latest, greatest and most expensive gear. You're fine buying an older smartphone model like the Samsung Galaxy S4 ($99 with a two-year contract) or iPhone 5s ($99 with a two-year contract). These are still more than powerful enough for the average user, and they won't break your bank account. If you really want to save, there are phones that are free with a two-year contract. These are usually several generations old, like the Samsung Galaxy S3, or slower, basic models. But if you just want basic calling, texting, Internet browsing and light gaming, they'll work fine. Paying too much for the latest gadgets isn't the only tech trap around, though. Click here for four more unnecessary tech purchases you can avoid.
Get legal eBooks for free
Q. I love the eReader I got for Christmas, but with all the eBooks I'm buying, my bank account is starting to look a little empty. Is there a legal way to get eBooks for free?
A. You can download thousands of free public domain eBooks, including most of the literature classics, from a site like Project Gutenberg. If you're looking for newer titles, then you'll need to borrow them from the library via the Overdrive service, friends or another service. Amazon, for example has the Kindle Lending Library, and the Kindle Lending option built into its eReaders. This gives you two weeks to read a newer or popular book before you have to "return" it. Click here to learn more about these lending services and other sites that let you borrow eBooks for free.
Read this before buying a new TV
Q. Our family went shopping for a new TV but got overwhelmed with the options the sales guy was throwing at us. What are the real must-have features, and which ones can we ignore?
A. Must-haves include 1080p resolution, a 120Hz refresh rate, LED backlighting, the right size for your room, 2 or more HDMI ports and at least one USB port. What you can do without is a 240Hz refresh rate (only really needed for motion blur-free sports and 3-D movies), any proprietary color improvement system (beyond a certain point, colors don't get any better, and in fact can get worse) or a curved screen (has a positive impact only on screen sizes of 200 inches or more). The one maybe is 4K resolution. While it is the future, TVs that offer it are still pretty pricey, and there isn't much content yet that actually uses it. Most people can wait and buy a 4K TV in four years for much less when there will be more to watch on it. Click here for more details on these and more important and unimportant features you need on your next TV.
A better way to borrow someone's phone
Q. My husband is driving me crazy. He forgets to charge his phone, the battery runs down at the worst times, and then he has to borrow my phone. Now he wants to fill up my phone with his important contacts so he always has them. Is there another option I can suggest instead?
A. You might want to invest in a backup battery like this one I sell in my shop that will give him several more hours of phone use. Just keep it charged and in your purse, and the problem is solved. Otherwise, you can also grab the free Hotel My Phone app. You install this on both your phones and when his phone dies, he can log in to the app on your phone. He'll instantly have his contacts and messages available, and even be able to make calls from his number. When he's done, your phone is left untouched. You can also send him these links for improving his battery life on Apple and Android.
Bonus tip: Is Microsoft really dropping Internet Explorer?
Q. I thought I heard on your national radio show that Microsoft is dropping Internet Explorer in Windows 10. I use Explorer all the time. What will I use instead?
A. Microsoft is phasing out Internet Explorer in favor of a new browser codenamed Project Spartan. Really, Spartan is just a version of Internet Explorer that has a new look, drops 20 years of old code and adds new features like Cortana voice search and Webpage annotation. Windows 10 will still include classic Internet Explorer to show websites that are too old to look good in Spartan, but most of the time Spartan is what you'll be using. Of course, if Spartan turns out not to be a good fit for you, you can always switch over to a popular third-party browser like Firefox or Chrome.
On the Kim Komando Show, the nation's largest weekend radio talk show, Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today's digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com. Kim also posts breaking tech news 24/7 at News.Komando.com.